Grasscut – 1inch 1/2 Mile Ninja Tune ZEN CD145 2010
The brains behind this wonderful new album album on the Ninja Tunes label are Andrew Phillips and Marcus O’Dair.
Andrew Philips is an award-winning film and television composer with over 100 screen credits and he is also a former keyboard player, vocalist and arranger with One Giant Leap. The other part of this duo Grasscut is classically trained double bassist, keyboard player Marcus O’Dair.
Within the gatefold CD sleeve you will find a map of the area of the South Downs of Sussex that influenced the composition of this album and Grasscut by including it here, invite you to take both an aural and actual journey with them via and through the music on this album. There are also hints in the liner notes as to a unique Grasscut artefact having been hidden within the valley and the clues to its location being contained within a free download track available called A Lost Village…..let the treasure hunt begin.
“These forms exist. They simply have fallen into disrepair.” – W G Sebald from High Down
Track one High Down begins with a gentle toy keyboard and voice intro before this is replaced by the mournful sound of a repeated piano refrain and singing. This introduction lul’s you into a false sense of security before you are enveloped in a wall of sound that at times reminds me of late period King Crimson and Porcupine Tree.
High Downs comes across as more Prog Rock than Dance or even Electronica but in reality is a blending of all of these genres as it steers a path in and out and roundabout but does not really settle into or onto any of these genres and so it is with much of this interesting new album from Grasscut.
Experimental sounds and samples are mixed in with real instruments to create a concept album tour of a secluded half forgotten valley on the outskirts of Brighton and the deserted ruined lost village of Balsdean that lies within this area.
Track two Old Machines is a blend of Kraftwork and Psapp, which also has a very strong nod in parts to Smells like Teen Spirit by Nirvana.
Meltwater burbles along in an epic prog style and has a nice blend of beautifully uplifting keyboards and piano elements. The overall vibe is a little bit similar to No Man but more energetic.
Despite the experimental and somewhat abstract avant garde nature of Crasscut’s music for the most part the album is made up of songs as opposed to weird sounds and noises and because of this it is very easy to listen too but despite the melody it still manages to challenge and unsettle. Track four The Tin Man is a good example of this as it starts with and ends with the sound of a creaking gate before a strange burbling voice Possibly that of Count John McCormack drifts in from underneath and then through and over the piano and electronic soundscape that wells up and over the listener. This track is both beautiful, haunting and just a little bit scary.
Track five Muppet is a full throttle slice of almost punk electronica and like High Down, in ways reminds me a bit of some of Porcupine Tree’s more recent music.
1946 reminds me sonically of the creepy soundscape used at times in the recent remake of Solaris. The voice of Mrs May Philips narrates her memories of this time period before being accompanied by a violin and viola which add a folky vibe to this haunting track.
The door in the Wall is very much in the feel of the late 1960’s and as such is very much a slice of electronic psychedelia. In reality it is the only track here that could be called a pop song, though its quirky soundscape and structure make it much more than just pop music. In some ways imagining a blending of the Divine Comedy, Terry Riley and early Pink Floyd is as close as you will get to describing the sound of this song.
Passing with its burps, electronic whistles and twisting warped soundscape is the most extreme example of Crasscut at their most avant garde and as such this is a difficult track to listen to0, especially when it descends into a wailing wall of sound. At its most gentle this track sounds a little like Rain Tree Crows but is way more extreme than anything you would here on that album.
In her Pride the last track on the album comes across as a piece of movie soundtrack music and is quite discordant in its overall tone but despite that its ebb and flow carries you to moments of haunting beauty.
Sound quality is mostly good but at times things get a bit congested and compressed sounding during the more raucous moments. However in saying that, overall this album is still an enjoyable listen.
The music contained within the 43 mins 53 seconds running time of this album is both inventive and challenging but in a good way unlike some other avant garde electronic acts Grasscut have by mostly keeping the melodies guaranteed themselves a wider listening audience, this is good for them and the resat of us who like listening to music and not the sound of instruments being murdered.
I for one look forward to their next album and I hope that Grasscut are not another one album group.
Andrew Phillips-Words, music, vocals, instruments and programming.
Marcus O’Dair-double bass, keyboards, management
with help from…..
David Bramwell-words, vocals and violin
Frank Byng,Jim Whyte-drums
Annie Kerr-violin and viola
Sound quality 8
Moon Andromeda Cd Player, Meridian G02 Balanced Pre-Amplifier, Meridian G55 power-amplifier, Anthony Gallo Ref 3.1 Speakers. Signal Cabling Atlas Marvos xlr to xlr, and Atlas Marvos Speaker cable. Mains leads Audience AU24 and Analysis Plus Power Oval 2. Equipment Tables used Clearlight Audio Aspekt Rack.
NB The copyright of the album art and photo belong with the original publisher.
© Text Copyright 2010 Adventures in High Fidelity Audio.
NB No part or portion of this article may be reproduced or quoted without written permission.